Tuesday night is arguably the low point for the United States Men's National Team in the modern/professional/MLS era.
And before I crawl down the rabbit hole, yes, the USMNT will still probably qualify for Russia and yes they just played two of their toughest four games in The Hex. But that should not excuse where Jurgen Klinsmann has guided this team over the last five years. Currently the USA is in last place in The Hex and can't be considered anything but the third best team in CONCACAF.
In on sense, Klinsmann has achieved, well, mostly nothing.
In another, there are just too many negatives to count.
Literally everyone has written an article proclaiming it's time for Jurgen Klinsmann's tenure as US national team coach to end, I won't link them here but you've probably read one or two or twelve and I'm not here to do the same, not entirely. Many fans and writers have known about Klinsi's tactical shortcomings for a long time but these past two games have been inexcusable by even the fairly low standards the USMNT should have. Mainly, this is a team that will always fight and scrap for a result even when they don't have their best on the field.
In Costa Rica Tuesday night, this team gave up. For the first time in my soccer fandom, I watched my country completely capitulate against a team that talent wise is at best their equal. Mexico and Costa Rica are good teams, but they're not great teams, and they shouldn't be dominating the USA for long stretches and they never should be outworking the US ever.
The last two games the US have had zero tactical sense of what they were doing on the field, get over run in the midfield and have no answer or adjustment from the head coach save for Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones basically telling Klinsmann to go 4-4-2 in Columbus. And it worked, for about 30 or 40 minutes but didn't stop Rafa Marquez's late winner against Mexico and nothing worked in Costa Rica.
But I'm done condemning Klinsmann's non-sensical lineup choices and roster selections. I'm done attempting to describe what is wrong with the USMNT during every significant international break.
I'm not angry anymore. Or disappointed. Or sad. I'm something far worse.
I'm indifferent. I don't care anymore.
It's not worth my time to preview games where I expect the US to build on positive things in friendlies, like Sacha Kljestan as a playmaking midfielder, only to have to include caveat's like "assuming Klinsmann does something reasonable." I'm done trying to analyze what the USA can do better to get a result in the next game when the only thing I can expect is that the lessons learned in the previous game will be ignored.
Jurgen Klinsmann promised us a more attacking style of soccer, but that clearly hasn't happened and it has cost the USMNT their true identity as the hardest working team in the world, capable of beating anyone on a given day. The USMNT several years ago were a threat to be an international power though that dream likely died in South Africa in the second half of the Confederations Cup Final against Brazil in 2009.
Right now, the United States aren't even what they should be - a top regional power you don't want to play in the World Cup. This is a broken team in desperate need of new leadership, either on the field, on the bench, or both. I don't know anymore and I don't care. These are decisions other people have to make and at some point I'll react to them.
The United States hasn't been a good soccer team for at least a few years if we're being honest. And even then, things like the World Cup in 2014 or Gold Cup in 2013 can hardly be considered great successes. Certainly not enough to outweigh the failures of 2015 Gold Cup or the routs at the hand of CONEMBOL during Copa America this past summer. This is not a national team that is on the rise or even stagnant, it's moving backwards.
Whether or not anyone at USSF headquarters cares to notice this and react to it is a separate matter altogether. If they had properly sacked Klinsmann in the morning yesterday, the deluge of "Klinsmann Out" posts probably would've had a different narrative. Instead what US Soccer got yesterday was it's worst round of MNT press probably ever in a year where the USSF does not need anymore off the field stories. Even if Sunil Gulati decides to fire Klinsmann later today or next month it's a move that is long overdue for many. But at this point, I don't care what US Soccer does, they've lost me for the time being and I'll need a few games to get my interest levels back to the fervor I usually have.
I will leave with one final thought on Jurgen Klinsmann.
Two years ago, my beloved Philadelphia Eagles made head coach Chip Kelly the general manager, the NFL's equivalent of your head coach also being your technical director. I will always say that Kelly the GM failed Kelly the coach, and if you need a reason to look at why your head coach shouldn't make all personnel decisions, the Eagles 2015 season is a good start. It failed spectacularly and it led to the Eagles blowing up the coaching staff and starting over with a rookie head coach and quarterback. This year the Eagles have a pleasant 5-4 record, they haven't embarrassed themselves by getting blown out in any of their losses, and they look like a competent and dare I say, even good team.
The USMNT does not need to blow up the whole structure the same way a club team would in a similar situation. What it needs is a senior national team head coach that is focused on results and just results leading up to Russia 2018. If by sheer accident the USMNT happens to develop a few good youngsters that become stalwarts on the international stage, that's great. The USA doesn't have a talent problem, it has an identity problem that needs to be fixed in the short term.
And the problem is that in a quest to become something they might not be or ever be, a great attacking powerhouse, they forgot who they were: a blue-collar, hard working team that never got pushed around in their own house and made opponents earn everything on the field. Not this unintelligent rabble that looks at a basic 4-4-2 like they've never seen it before and forgets how to play soccer every other time out on the field.
But I forget, I've stopped caring about whether or not Jurgen Klinsmann continues as head coach of the USMNT. I'm so numb to his decisions at this point that it doesn't matter to me what he does for winter camp or if the team rebounds with wins against Honduras and at Panama in March or if he gets sacked hours after this article gets published.
Because Jurgen Klinsmann and US Soccer don't even deserve the ire of the fans or the media at this point. They deserve something far more significant.
I won't check my phone obsessively for news of Klinsmann's job status like I did yesterday, cause the only way to sack someone is in the morning, that's how the chant goes. I won't head out to bars for the away games like I've done in the past. I didn't go Tuesday night anyway cause I have better things to do than watch the USMNT play soccer right now on channels that no one gets and I do understand it's not the USSF's fault the away games are on BeIN Sports. They don't deserve any extra investment from me or anyone else for that matter so long as they continue down this path. Maybe lower TV ratings or attendance will force the hand of the higher ups at the USSF, certainly nothing on the field seems to have an effect at this point.
But I'm not mad. I've seen this team play badly before, they'll play badly again. I've seen the US get out coached before, usually the case under Klinsmann, and that will surely happen again as well. But emotionally? I'm done with this team until something major changes - the coach, the style, the lineup, whatever - because I can't be bothered to invest serious time into this team in its current state. I just invest my emotions towards other sports that will rip out my heart, like UConn football.
It's just not worth it. The best way to handle my international soccer fandom currently is to basically not care, one way or the other. And it will take more than wins over Honduras, Panama and Trinidad to bolster my spirits here, no winter friendlies can save my opinion of this team. Maybe going down to Azteca and winning a qualifier there would go a long way, it's a shame that match is in June. But until my country can prove to me that it deserves my emotions and investment again, they deserve only one thing.
Plain old indifference.